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Can you have one without the other?

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Freedom-loving leaders know when half a loaf won’t do.
This thought was key in Jefferson’s final paragraph in Summary View, his appeal to the British king and parliament through the Continental Congress. The natural rights of life AND liberty came from the same source and were bound together, almost as one.

England could destroy both their lives and their liberty, but they could not separate them. Life without the liberty to enjoy it at one’s will (within that society’s self-imposed limits for the general welfare of all) would be a violation of natural law.

Jefferson followed this excerpt with these prescient words, “This, sire, is our last, our determined resolution; and that you will be pleased to … redress of these our great grievances, … ” England did not respond in any positive way. Two years later, Jefferson would reprise the thoughts of Summary View in a much shorter document, the Declaration of American Independence.

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Right or wrong is not complicated!

Open your breast, sire, to liberal and expanded thought. Let not the name of George the third be a blot in the page of history …. The great principles of right and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them requires not the aid of many counsellors. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.
Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders fail gently. Dishonest ones fail hard.
Jefferson was near the end of this guide written for Virginia’s delegates to the Continental Congress. It outlined the abuses against the Colonies by King and Parliament. Here, Jefferson made an appeal directly to King George.

He pointed out the King had “no ministers for American affairs” among his circle of counselors. Nor was he answerable to any laws which supported the Colonies’ right to be heard.

He appealed to the monarch to do the right thing. The King didn’t need counselors to help him decide. The right choices were obvious. Should the King fail while doing right, he would enjoy a gracious response from his subjects. Should he continue to pursue wrong, his name would become “a blot in the page of history.”

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Arrogance leads to this.

When the representative body [Parliament] have lost the confidence of their constituents  [American colonies], when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then indeed their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the state, and calls for an exercise of the power of dissolution.
Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders carefully maintain the confidence of their followers.
Thomas Jefferson noted three troubling factors in British leadership. Its Parliament:
1. No longer enjoyed the confidence of the people they were supposed to lead/serve.
2. No longer respected the rights of those people.
3. Assumed powers which had never been given them.

Since business-as-usual was dangerous to America, the colonists had the right to dissolve the connection. They would do that two years later.

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How can we be rid of this crime against nature?

The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies, where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state. But previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa; yet our repeated attempts to effect this by prohibitions, and by imposing duties which might amount to a prohibition, have been hitherto defeated by his majesty’s negative [veto]: Thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few African corsairs [pirates] to the lasting interests of the American states, and to the rights of human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous practice … so shameful an abuse of a power trusted with his majesty …
Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders agitate for human rights.
Slavery was introduced into the colonies in their earliest days. More than a century later, Jefferson claimed strong sentiment for abolition and citizenship for freed slaves. Before that could happen, importing more slaves had to stop. Yet, the king vetoed “repeated attempts” by the colonies to end importation.

The king put the immediate financial interests of a few slave traders above the lasting interests of the colonies and the human rights of those enslaved, a shameful abuse of power.

Two years later, Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence would include a denunciation of the king’s promotion of the slave trade. That language was stripped from the final version, because Georgia and South Carolina would not vote for independence if it remained.

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What reduces free people to slavery?

Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.
Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The 31 year-old Jefferson wrote Summary View for Virginia’s delegates to carry to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. It was a much longer document than his Declaration of Independence, but its theme was much the same, outlining the abuses England’s King and Parliament had imposed on their American colonies. He categorized those abuses as tyrannies.

Jefferson wrote that one tyranny could be seen as a mistake in judgment. A series of them meant something much different and sinister, He then described the series: imposing multiple duties and taxes, suspending New York’s legislature, blockading Boston, trying American “crimes” in British courts. What turns free people into slaves? A deliberate plan to whittle away their natural rights, one by one, until there were no freedoms left.

Summary View was later printed in pamphlet form and widely circulated throughout America and Europe. It did not have the effect Jefferson hoped, a wake-up call that ended Bristish abuses. It did have an effect he had not anticipated, establishing his credentials as a gifted writer. Two years later, he would be called upon to use that skill again.

(Today, April 13, is Mr. Jefferson’s 272nd birthday.)

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What politician EVER tires of speaking of himself? Herself?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. I shall recur again to this subject towards the close of my story, if I should have life and resolution enough to reach that term; for I am already tired of talking about myself.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know when to shut up.
The last 40-some posts have been taken sequentially from Jefferson’s autobiography. He began with family history and carried the narrative until his final sentence, “I arrived in New York on the 21st of Mar. [1790] where Congress was in session.” For the final post in this series, I’ve gone back to the late 1770s.

In the sentence preceding the opening excerpt, Jefferson lamented that the legislature had effectively gutted his bill for public education for all children. He labored for that cause all his life yet never saw it adopted. He knew that an educated citizenry was essential for maintaining the American republic.

He would take up the education bill again when he finished his autobiography, if he had both life and motivation to do so. He lived five more years. He had time but lacked the motivation. There was no 2nd half to his life story, because he had “tired of talking about myself.”

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Did Thomas Jefferson celebrate Easter?

Pres. Jefferson,
I was curious as to whether or not your administration celebrated the Easter holiday … and/or to what extent?
Your friend in the fourth estate,
Source: A newspaper publisher whose name I omitted

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Should leaders respond to religious holidays?

This question came by email from a newspaper publisher (and blog subscriber) on Monday, the day after Easter. I omitted his name. Let’s take a break from Jefferson’s autobiography and address this

  1. His administration did not celebrate Easter, as that would have given governmental sanction to a particular religious expression, something it was enjoined from doing by the 1st amendment.
  2. Congress had religious services which he often attended. Whether Congress was in session at Easter time, I don’t know, but I’m doubtful. In 1801 and 1805, they might have still been in session following March 4 Presidential inaugurations. More commonly, Congress convened late in the year. His 1st and 3rd “State of the Union Addresses”, called “Annual Messages” at the time, were dated Dec. 8, 1801 and October 17, 1803. The 6th was Dec. 2, 1806, the 8th on Nov. 8, 1808.
    3. If Congress was not in session or if Jefferson was home or elsewhere, he might have attended a service on Easter Sunday, not because it was Easter but because he often attended church meetings and generally supported the church’s work.
    4. He attached no significance to Easter. While he regarded Jesus as the greatest moral teacher, he did not consider him to be divine. To his thinking, there would have been no resurrection and no point in the commemoration.
    5. A Google search for “Thomas Jefferson” + “Easter” reveals nothing helpful.
    6. Searching Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s web site (TJF owns and operates Monticello) for Easter reveals nothing about his observing the holiday. One TJF-written citation, though, about the work expected of slaves includes this: “The usual holidays on slave plantations in Virginia were Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun. There are numerous references to the Christmas holiday (usually several days long) in Jefferson’s records.”
    Note that he granted a Christmas holiday but apparently no others were mentioned.

“Whitsun” is a British name for Pentecost, the 7th Sunday after Easter.

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Family joy lessens the pressure of leadership

In the interval of my stay at home my eldest daughter had been happily married to the eldest son of the Tuckahoe branch of Randolphs, a young gentleman of genius, science and honorable mind, who afterwards filled a dignified station in the General Government, & the most dignified in his own State.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Family blessings make life easier for leaders.
Jefferson returned from France near the end of November, 1789, with his two daughters, Martha, age 17, and Maria, 11. Two months later, Martha married a cousin, Thomas Mann Randolph.

Randolph was full of promise as a young man but was troubled with mental problems in his middle-age. Having a famous father-in-law may have undermined his self-confidence. His very capable wife, who bore 11 children, was devoted to her father, first of all. Martha raised the children without much assistance from their father, who was often absent. Her ability to function without her husband could not have helped.

Even though Jefferson wrote this account when his son-in-law’s shortcomings were well-known, he made no mention of them. Perhaps it was for the sake of his daughter and grandchildren, who would read this account. He left them with a good report on their husband and father.

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I’d rather not, but if you insist …

I received a letter from the President … covering an appointment to be Secretary of State. I received it with real regret. My wish had been to return to Paris … to see the end of the Revolution … return home, to withdraw from Political life … to sink into the bosom of my family and friends, and devote myself to studies more congenial to my mind … I expressed these dispositions candidly to the President … but assured him [if] … I could be more useful in the … government, I would sacrifice my own inclinations … this I left to his decision … on the 23d. of Dec…. I received a second letter from the President, expressing his continued wish that I should take my station there, but leaving me still at liberty to continue in my former office … This silenced my reluctance, and I accepted the new appointment.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Great leaders are willing to be mutually submissive.
Soon after Jefferson’s return from France, he received an offer he really didn’t want, the new President’s request that he serve as Secretary of State. He replied and “candidly” gave his reasons why he didn’t want the job. Even so, if could better serve in this new capacity, he would sacrifice his desires to the President’s. He left the choice up to Washington.

In a second letter, the President affirmed his wish but offered his ambassador the opportunity to continue in that position. He left the choice up to Jefferson.

With each man freely expressing himself and deferring to the other, Jefferson chose to make the final submission and serve his new country in a new way. Doing so positioned him on a trajectory toward the Presidency 11 years later. That might not have happened had he pursued his own wishes in late 1789.

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It takes HOW LONG to get home?

On the 26th. of Sep. [1789] I left Paris for Havre, where I was detained by contrary winds until the 8th. of Oct. On that day, and the 9th. I crossed over to Cowes, where I had engaged the Clermont, Capt. Colley, to touch for me. She did so, but here again we were detained by contrary winds until the 22d. when we embarked and landed at Norfolk on the 23d. of November.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders are subject to Mother nature! (Some things can’t be hurried.)
Jefferson was America’s ambassador to France for five years. He came home in 1789, to return his two daughters to their native country and attend to business matters before returning to France. This is a firsthand account of international travel in the 18th century.


– Left Paris on September 26, traveling northwest four days by carriage, about 140 miles, to the seaport of Havre on the north coast of France.
– Waited at Havre 10 days for favorable winds to sail west to England.
– From Havre, 26 hours to cross 100 miles of the English Channel to Cowes on the Isle of Wright, off the south coast of England. “Boisterous navigation and mortal sickness,” Jefferson wrote of that portion of the trip home. (Jefferson and the Rights of Man, Malone, P. 236)
– Waited at Cowes 13 days, again for favorable winds.
– Crossing the Atlantic to Norfolk, VA took 32 days.

– The total journey took almost two months: 4 days land by land, 23 days waiting in ports for the right weather, and 33 days on the sea.

There are no direct flights now from Paris to Norfolk. With one intermediate stop, that journey can be accomplished in less than 12 hours.

Did you note his phrase “to touch for me”? The 19th entry for the word “touch” in Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary is “to make a brief or incidental stop on shore during a trip by water.” Jefferson had arranged his journey in advance. Part of this careful man’s planning included having the Clermont make a brief stop at Cowes to pick him up.

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